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October 31, 2011
Genetically Modified Bread Is Next For The Mad Scientists at John Hopkins University

Eventually, absolutely everything you know to be wholesome and natural will be tainted in some way with genetically modified (GM) ingredients. A group of undergraduate students have used genetically modified ingredients on a common yeast that will be used in baked bread.

The team based at from John Hopkins University, USA, produced the modified yeast -- known as VitaYeast -- by adding a synthetic DNA plasmid ring programmed to produce beta-carotene into a common yeast cell. Research team member Ashan Veerakumar said the VitaYeast project's goal is to design a yeast strain that artificially synthesises nutrients.

Until recently, there was no GM yeast incorporated into any baked goods. A few years ago, a genetically modified strain of baker's yeast was tested in Great Britain. This new strain had enhanced carbon dioxide production. It was hoped that it could help make bread rise more quickly, but in practice, the yeast was unsuccessful. Genetically modified yeast would have to be approved by the EU, Canada and USA for use, and as of now, no applications have been approved...yet!

As usual from GMO producers, claims from VitaYeast include tackling vitamin A deficiency and to help curb global malnutrition, or so they say. The research team envisioned creating an enhanced starter dough that can be easily and cheaply shared among large groups of impoverished people. Obviously, they will represent the testing ground guinea pigs before the yeast would be approved across developed nations.

They said that the bread baked from the dough enriched with Vita Yeast could help to avert health problems that occur when vitamins and other nutrients are missing from their diets.

"The major problem in developing countries right now is not that people are hungry and starving because they don't have enough food," added Arjun Khakhar, a biomedical engineering major at John Hopkins.

"What people don't have now is the [right type of] food that they need to survive. Vital nutrients like vitamins are just missing from their diets, because they can't afford fruits and vegetables. That's what we wanted to provide through VitaYeast," he said.

Here's an idea, how about we help impoverished nations create a sustainable and lasting food supply so they don't have so many health problems and nutrients missing from their diets. Would that not make more sense than introducing an unknown genetically modified organism that creates foreign nutrients for the human body?

Genetically Modified Yeast

Team member Steffi Liu explained that they wanted to simulate the same process "that a regular person might go through to bake bread."

"The only thing that's different in the recipe is that we substituted our vitamin A yeast for the normal dry packaged yeast," she explained. The resulting bread looks exactly the same as normal bread with "definitely the same smell!"

So basically you wouldn't know it was genetically modified unless the product was properly labeled.

She explained the bread cannot be eaten currently because it contains a genetically engineered ingredient that has not undergone safety testing or received approval from regulators. However the group said they are encouraged by the tempting aroma and traditional bread-like texture and appearance.

GM Acceptance

Despite the promise of VitaYeast, the group noted that its reception could still be hindered by public concerns about genetically modified food, including the key issues of safety and environmental impact.

"However, as technology advances and more natural resources are depleted, the impact of genetic modification will become more significant to society," said the group.

Genetic modifications are more significant to society the same way nuclear pollution is significant to power hungry nations of the world. They're better off without it and so is the rest of the world.

"Therefore, in addition to our wet-lab experiments, we hope to gather data to help us understand the concerns of both the developing world and local communities regarding genetic modification and the global food supply," they added.

Marco Torres is a research specialist, writer and consumer advocate for healthy lifestyles. He holds degrees in Public Health and Environmental Science and is a professional speaker on topics such as disease prevention, environmental toxins and health policy.


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